It’s hard to make a bad movie with zombies. Even a television show like The Walking Dead which has some of the most appalling acting I’ve ever seen becomes captivating whenever the zombies lurk on to the screen. Having an undead creature chasing after a living person is escapism at its best. You don’t care about what’s happening in the world beyond the movie theater or television screen, all you care about is whoever is being chased getting away.
The creators behind the new movie World War Z realize this. They don’t bother with character or exposition. They cut all the fat and within the first ten minutes the zombie invasion has begun. There are explosions and fast moving decaying creatures who want nothing more than to gnaw on your face. Brad Pitt is some kind of UN inspector who is trying to find a cure for this plague, but none of that is really important to the movie. What matters are the zombies. They are relentless, they will climb over thousand foot walls, they will sense you if you make the slightest sound. Early on Brad Pitt describes the movie’s credos, “Movement is life.” There is no time to stop and ponder the significance of what these zombies represent or whether life is worth living when you can’t get a moment’s peace.
Other movies have tried to make zombies metaphors. World War Z figures the audience has accepted the zombie as death. You can run, you can shoot them in the head, but eventually the zombies (and death) will catch you, thus you might as well make the two hour running time of the movie as exciting and thrilling as possible.
George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and its remake tried a different route with zombies representing consumers lifelessly walking through the mall from one shop to the next eating (or buying) whatever is put in front of them. Sophia Coppola in her new movie The Bling Ring follows that formula, but replaces zombies with hipster internet savvy fashionista teenagers.
Based on a true story The Bling Ring is about a group of overprivileged high schoolers who use the internet to find celebrities addresses and break into their homes. They want to steal their trinkets, but also they want to be closer to the rich and the famous that they’re already partying with.
The Bling Ring is one of those warnings about our celebrity obsessed culture and it is a pleasant enough way to kill ninety minutes. It builds tension admirably over whether the kids are going to get caught for their petty crimes, but The Bling Ring is an old geezer. Coppola scolds this latest generation of teenagers for their shallowness and obsession with celebrity while finding time for cameos for Paris Hilton and Kirsten Dunst. Her movies with their glamorization of materialism and hedonism are the problem they claim to be protesting. But at least she made this one fun with its cheap thrills, hard drugs, and bad music. For if we can’t have fun, then the zombies have already won.